When you’re pregnant, you likely experience a broad set of symptoms. For example, you may have nausea, commonly known as morning sickness. You might also have changes in your sleep habits, and you may find it more difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep.
Many of the symptoms of pregnancy that you go through are directly related to hormonal changes.
The following are some of the things that happen to your hormones when you’re pregnant.
The Hormones Affected During Pregnancy
The hormones that play the most significant role during pregnancy are:
- Progesterone: This hormone is created by your ovaries and also by your placenta during pregnancy. Progesterone helps thicken the uterine lining, which allows for a fertilized egg to be implanted.
- Estrogen: This is a group of hormones associated with the sexual traits of females. It’s created in the ovaries, and it’s also made by the placenta when you’re pregnant.
- Human placental lactogen: hPL is a hormone that your placenta makes to provide fetal nutrition. hPL also stimulates your breast’s milk glands.
- Human chorionic gonadotropin hormone: hCG is only made during pregnancy and in the placenta. This hormone is thought to play a role in nausea and vomiting you might experience when you’re pregnant.
When you’re pregnant, you experience various hormonal changes, including rapid and significant estrogen and progesterone increases.
Estrogen and Progesterone
Estrogen and progesterone are known as the main hormones of pregnancy, and they’re the most talked about.
Estrogen increases during pregnancy allow for the formation of the placenta and uterine blood vessels and the transfer of nutrients. Estrogen is also vital to the development of the fetus.
Throughout your pregnancy, estrogen levels continue to increase—levels peak in the third trimester.
The rapid increase of estrogen levels during your first trimester may play some role in nausea. During your second trimester, estrogen increases often lead to an increase in breast size.
Progesterone causes your uterus to enlarge, and it leads to the loosening of your joints and ligaments.
The Effects of Hormonal Changes
- Exercise injuries: When you’re pregnant, you may be more prone to exercise injuries and injuries in general. This propensity can be at least partially due to hormonal changes. When hormones loosen your ligaments, you may be more likely to experience sprains and similar injuries.
- Nausea and vomiting: This has been touched on, but so-called morning sickness is a significant symptom of pregnancy for many people. Several hormonal shifts in pregnancy can contribute to nausea and vomiting.
- Mood swings: It’s not uncommon to experience mood swings during pregnancy, most of which can be attributed to hormones. It’s easy to move quickly from happiness to depression because of hormones. During your pregnancy, your levels of progesterone are very high. After you give birth, this and other hormones may decline and play a role in postpartum depression.
- Heart and kidney function: You may not link the heart and kidneys’ function with your hormones, but the two can be related. If you have changes in progesterone, for example, it can cause low blood pressure. Low blood pressure can then lead to blood pooling in your legs and swelling if you sit or stand for too long.
- Skin changes: Some women see a condition called melasma during their pregnancy. This is an increase in skin pigmentation, leading to dark spots. This is usually temporary but can be permanent in some cases. High estrogen levels can also cause spider veins.
- Breast changes: When you’re pregnant, your body will also prepare you to supply milk to a newborn. When you experience changes in pregnancy hormones, it can lead to the darkening of the areola. Your breasts may grow and can be more sensitive or tender than before. You might start producing small amounts of colostrum even during your second trimester.
- Hair changes: Hormonal changes can lead to hair shedding or loss. Many women experience more hair growth and thickening hair when they’re pregnant on the opposite end of the spectrum. This may even mean hair growth in unexpected areas, such as the back or face.
- Stretch marks: Stretch marks can occur because of a combination of your skin stretching and hormonal effects on the elasticity of your skin. Some stretch marks fade while others don’t.
Hormonal changes can be challenging to deal with during pregnancy, but it’s essential to understand they’re expected, and they’re part of the process of growing a baby. Many of the things you experience will subside, sometimes even by your third trimester.